Picking up the Pieces


The subtle secondary design emerges only when viewed from a far

There were 66 log cabin blocks in my mom’s unfinished projects. I wasn’t sure of the exact number that had frustrated her until I inherited them 2 years ago. She would take then out from time to time and arrange them on a design wall or the floor, then gather them up and put them away again. I would ask her when she was going to sew them together and she’d say, “they’re all different sizes.” Ah, yes, I thought, that’s frustrating but the Log Cabin can be a very forgiving design and I figured a little trimming here and there and she should be able to put them together. I thought she was being too picky. Well that was before I picked up the pieces.

This summer I went through all the blocks, measured them and I realized the problem was not the size variation but the construction. The narrow fabric strips should be sewn sequentially, alternating light and dark around the center square. Each block is balanced with an equal number of dark and light logs. It’s easy to get lost in the piecing and end up with more light logs than dark or vice versa which makes the block unbalanced and odd sized. So it was with about 20 of these blocks, those were the frustrating ones.

 Combining blocks that I made this summer with blocks my mom made in circa 1980

If you look at the final quilt you will see secondary patterns. It wasn’t until this piece was completely finished and photographed did I realize what my mother was trying to do. By adding medium colored logs to each side of the block, she was able to make the subtle secondary design that emerges from the background only when viewed from a far.

There are 46 blocks made by my mom like the top two and I made 18, the bottom two are examples.